And now, the end is near ... And so I face the final curtain ...
Driving into the Lackawanna Avenue parking lot this morning, on this, my last day at The Evening Sun, Ol’ Blue Eyes popped up randomly on my iPod.
My friend, I’ll say it clear. I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full. I traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Thank you for hitting me over the head with it, Universe.
Yes, dear readers, we’ve come to the end of a long journey together. As you read on Wednesday’s front page, it is true: I’m leaving The Evening Sun today after 22 and a half years, almost all of those as its managing editor. Although the opportunity presented to me in the next phase of my career is both challenging and exhilarating, I’d not be human were I not a tad melancholy today.
I have no idea how to begin summing up my two decades’ worth of memories and experiences in running Chenango County’s Hometown Daily. To say that it was an unexpected odyssey is an understatement; but who among us can say they’ve had a career (or life) plan they followed to the letter? When men make plans, God laughs.
Yes there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew ...
Fresh out of college in the summer of 1990, Norwich was the last place I wanted to end up, frankly. Like many disenchanted youth, I’d wanted to get as far away from my Oxford hometown as possible and never look back. Ironic that I never really ended up leaving at all – but I wouldn’t trade the last 22 years for the world. Faced with a decided lack of job prospects in the Oswego area with my freshly-inked diploma in hand, I reluctantly answered a classified ad my mother had helpfully clipped from this very newspaper: Reporter Wanted.
Reporter? I could do that! The most fun I’d had in college was at the student-run newspaper; this was right up my alley. It sort of worked out that way ... I spent about a year and a half as a reporter, covering the police/fire/court and county beats, but I saw pretty quickly what I really wanted to do: Edit.
Or, more honestly, run the joint. Through a combination of skill and happenstance, I soon became Managing Editor – and at the time, the youngest managing editor of a daily newspaper in the United States. I was 23. And, honestly again, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall. I did it my way.
Those early years in the captain’s chair were rough, and I thank each and every one of you for sticking with me and the paper as I literally learned on the job. In time, I developed a deft hand. With the help of my trusty staff (see yesterday’s blog for a complete listing of all 36-ish reporters I’ve had over the years), I turned this little newspaper around, focusing on what I knew then was our niche – local news, sports and entertainment. It’s a maxim that holds true today, as newspapers across the nation, struggling to remain relevant and survive, focus on local, local, local.
Many of you made that an easy mission to fulfill. People are passionate about this community, and equally as passionate about the newspaper which represents it. I’ve had the privilege to work with countless dedicated, thoughtful and driven individuals over the years, both within the company and outside, all of whom contributed to the rich tapestry of daily recorded history that is The Evening Sun.
Regrets, I’ve had a few ... but then again, too few to mention ...
That’s not to say it’s been an easy ride. Remember those passionate people I was talking about? For every one of them, there were others who are ... You know what? I’m going to take Mr. Sinatra’s counsel on this one. Bygones.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve had my fill, my share of losing. And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing ...
Today, as I sit here in my nearly-empty office, I’m left with nothing but fond memories. In the two weeks since I gave notice, I’ve been visited in my mind by Ghosts of Evening Sun Past – so many recollections that would take another two pages to list, probably. I’m reminded of the first time I saw the presses run, the thrill of seeing my first “Jeffrey Genung, Staff Writer” byline on the front page. I can hear the late Kathy O’Hara’s laugh bellowing on Hale Street. Those marathon election nights, waiting punch-drunk for results to come in. Fair time, watching the action from the beer tent. Darkroom Dave reeking of film developer. Slicing my hand open with an x-acto knife on deadline, but getting the paper done before a trip to the ER. Walking to work during the Blizzard of ‘93. Terrified on that day in ‘94 when Dick Snyder bought the paper, thinking he’d boot me that afternoon (thanks, Dick, for keeping me around ... and letting me do it my way). Dave Warren introducing us to this new thing called the “world wide web.” Greeting the masses and handing out swag from our Colorscape booth. Frank Speziale standing on or hanging off things he shouldn’t to get that one perfect shot. Delivering free newspapers at Gus Macker. Meeting Jon Bon Jovi and Hillary Clinton (not together). My crappy “office” on Hale Street, and my cushy digs at 29 Lackawanna. Countless comings and goings of Evening Sun reporters, each of whom brought something new and interesting to the paper, and kept my own perspective fresh. Shoveling off that damn AP Satellite dish on the roof. Our Christmas parade floats, held together by Bacardi and duct tape. That behemoth special section which dare not speak its name, Progress (won’t miss you). My most favorite tradition of all: Friday lunch, booze-soaked staff bonding at its very finest. I could go on and on ... and probably will, at that aforementioned Friday lunch this afternoon. I will not cry. Maybe.
I did what I had to do, and saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
So here we are, folks. My last blog, Tweet, column, front page ... even my last snarky Ed. comment in “30 Seconds” (I heartily apologize for that lasting legacy). Coincidentally, today is issue Number 262, the last of Volume 122. Saturday, March 16 is The Evening Sun’s anniversary. Come Monday, Brian Golden, assisted by Shawn Magrath, Kevin Doonan and Pat Newell, will guide you into this newspaper’s next chapter – Volume 123, Number 1. While I’m moving on to greener pastures, know that I will always have ink in my veins. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for going on this journey with me. And thank you for letting me do it my way.
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